By Emily I. from Berlin, Germany
Guest Blogger and College Goals’ student of Jilly Warner
The idea of applying to colleges can seem exciting, daunting, maybe even scary, but most of all, stressful. Although it should actually only be exciting, as we begin this amazing new chapter in our lives, I feel that it is hard to get around the stressful part of applying. The only way to make it easier is to take each step of the process as it comes and just get it done. To get started early is important, in order to have enough time to dissect each step of the process and work on it thoroughly.
To me, the most important part of the application process is having motivation and excitement. You have to be excited to go to college, and to start the wonderful experience of life after high school. If you are not, it may be very hard to find motivation to write essays, look into different kinds of schools, and keep up with your studies at the same time. Motivation and excitement came easy for me, as I have always dreamed of going to college in the US.
It helped to look at the websites of individual schools, and find one thing for each school that I was completely passionate about. This also helped when comparing different choices, as I could weigh the aspects I had found amazing about one school to the highlights of another.
During the process of deciding where to apply, I began writing my Common App essay. Again, the most important things to have are motivation and passion. Choose a prompt that you are interested in and brainstorm about what information you find important to share about yourself. This will help a great deal, as it will not be a burden to write and you may even find the process enjoyable. Going over it repeatedly will get boring, so I tried to always keep in mind why I initially felt inclined to write an essay in response to that specific prompt and why I was excited about it. If you simply can’t get motivated, think about your dream school. Imagine their admissions team reading your essay and what impressions they will gather from it. You want it to stand out, right?
Once I had made my final choice of colleges, I began writing the individual essays for each school. Again, if you get a choice of prompts, choose one that you are passionate about. Many of the essays took a lot of thinking and mulling over in my mind until I was able to decide what I wanted to write about. The University of Richmond, for example, has a prompt that simply says: Spiders. I felt completely clueless about how to respond, as I felt that such a creative prompt deserved a very creative answer. I was really happy that I had started early, because I had enough time to take a week to just think about it. I tried to think about it at least once a day, and if any good ideas popped into my head, I immediately wrote them down on my phone. This is a good thing to do with any prompts that seem tricky. It is a lot easier to have a whole bunch of ideas and then weed out the good ones, instead of staring at a blank computer screen with no ideas to consider.
Once I had finished writing all the individual essays, everything else seemed like a piece of cake. The best advice I can give to anyone about to go through the process of applying to colleges is to get on it early and stay focused, and most importantly, be motivated and get excited. It is the first time for most of us to be independent from our families and to make all of our own decisions. No matter where you end up going to college, you should be excited about the unknown, and use that anticipation for a boost of energy and motivation.